Steer rezoning upheld at OMB

 In Business, News

Steer Enterprises has been cleared to develop its new service centre at Cashtown Corners.

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has dismissed an appeal of Clearview Township council’s decision to apply an agriculturally related commercial exception zone to a 10-acre parcel of farmland at the southeast corner of County Roads 42 and 9 that would allow for the development of a diesel engine repair centre. Owner Tim Young has said Steer has outgrown its current location in Glen Huron and is looking to build a larger purpose built facility.

“We are certainly excited about the decision that was made,” said Young. “We are ready to proceed forward.”

He said he felt the OMB decision put to rest any questions about the development.

The appeal process has set the development back about eight months but Steer is now working to finalize the site plan details with the township. The plan is to be open at Cashtown Corners in the fall of 2018.

“Our next step is to finalize proceedings with the township and then we can break soil here as soon as possible,” said Young. “We held off on everything until we had the go-ahead.”

The OMB hearing was held in Stayner April 11-13 to hear an appeal filed by Creemore residents John and Marnie Hillier. The parties included Steer, the Township of Clearview and Tod Jardine, the owner of the subject property.

“We are disappointed with the decision to approve the development proposal at Cashtown. While we recognize the benefits of business expansion to the community, we believe that an industrial park would have been a more appropriate location,” said the Hilliers.

In a decision issued June 15 by OMB member Ian Rowe wrote, “There is no dispute that Steer provides an excellent service to its customers, a large portion of which is the agricultural industry and that Steer needs to expand its operation in order to serve its growing business. The appropriateness of the proposed location is very much in dispute.”

In order to justify locating on agricultural land, whether Steer’s agriculturally related work is a “primary activity” came into question.

“The board finds that an appropriate interpretation of the phrase admits to the possibility of more than one activity as prime activities. In doing so, the board concludes that on either categorization, the products and services provided by Steer to the agricultural industry constitute a primary activity and therefore Steer qualifies as an agriculture-related use,” states the ruling.

In the matter of alternative sites, Rowe states, “There does not appear to be any provision in the Provincial Policy Statement or the guidelines that seeks to impose an obligation on a proponent to investigate alternative sites which would avoid the absorption of prime agricultural land.” He goes on to say, the board “would have benefitted from a more rigorous analysis of the alternative sites considered. However, in the context of rather ill-defined locational criteria, the board is satisfied that Mr. Young has satisfied any such criteria.”

Rowe found the Simcoe County Official Plan to be “internally inconsistent” in its criteria for location in that it states the agricultural related use must be in close proximity to the farm operation but also be directed to a rural designated property or a settlement area.

“The board accepts the evidence of the proponent and the two farmers that the operation should be in close proximity to the farm operations it serves. Therefore, the proposal would appear to satisfy the first locational criteria and would be relieved from satisfying either of the remaining criteria.” The ruling goes on to say, “Although the subject property is predominately Class 3 agricultural land, the board was advised that it had been limited to pasture use. The area of the consent was considered poorer lands than the balance of the farm.”

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